While living in Germany, Sister Condie and I became acquainted with a marvelous couple from Switzerland, Brother Georg and Sister Annaroesli Birsfelder, who were serving in the Frankfurt Germany Temple. * In February 1991, at the end of their temple shift, Brother and Sister Birsfelder were taking a stroll together down one of the little Friedrichsdorf streets near the temple. Suddenly a car driven by an elderly man swerved around the corner, over the curb, and onto the sidewalk. The car struck Sister Birsfelder and hurled her through the thick, plate-glass door of a store. She was rushed to the hospital, where she was treated for a double skull fracture, a concussion, and a severely injured eye.
For seven weeks she lay in a coma, unaware of her surroundings. Georg stayed at her bedside as much as possible, patting her hand gently and speaking to her in tones of love and encouragement. Finally she opened her eyes. Two months after the accident, she began to speak and to eat solid food. Later she was able to stand up and take a few steps and converse once again in English, German, and French. It was a miracle! Our prayers had been answered.
She still experienced considerable pain, and it was apparent that she had permanently lost the sight of her right eye. Three months after the accident, the driver of the car visited her in the hospital. Filled with anxiety and fear of legal reprisals, he asked, “Do you hate me for what I have done to you?”
He was not prepared for her reply: “Do you know who I am? I am a Mormon. In our religion we learn to love and forgive one another. No,” she said, “I don’t hate you. I love you and forgive you.” The elderly man had a heavy burden lifted that day.
Our Savior, at the close of His brief ministry among the Nephites, posed the following soul-searching question: “What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Ne. 27:27).
It is easier to speak of Christlike attributes than to practice them when things go wrong and people do things that hurt us. But if we are to become like Christ, we must learn to forgive as He did.
Brother Birsfelder currently serves as President of the Swiss Temple, and Sister Birsfelder serves as the temple matron.